As we all trip over each other to get into a pair of trail shoes there’s a category of footwear that should be our friend, but seems to have slipped off the radar a little bit: the approach shoe.
Approach shoe is a rubbish name, it says all the wrong things, particularly “I’ll get you near the mountain but don’t take me onto it”. The truth is that approach shoes are made for the mountains, are more robust than trail shoes and the uppers will fare better over time on rockier routes. They often tend to have stiffer midsoles and scrambling-friendly outsoles, something you’ll like or you won’t. They are a little heavier than trail shoes, but lighter than boots, give free ankle movement as nature intended, and usually come in jazz fusion colourways so what’s not to like?
It’s good to be testing Garmont, it’s name I’ve had on a my feet many times over the years, not least as they made Karrimor KSB’s at one time. The range looks familiar as there’s evolutions of older models in there and fresh at the same time, and from their approach shoe range (Mffff) here’s the Dragontail.
It’s got a sticky rubber Vibram sole with a rock-friendly toe area, but it’s got a good pattern elsewhere, I reckon these would have been great on the recent Assynt trip where we were on a mix of pretty dry grass and rock for three days. The upper is thick suede and mesh, no waterproof liner (there’s a GTX version), just a treatment on the suede which is good, and there’s a thick rand over the robust toe bumper. The lacing goes down to the toe, which apart from giving a rock-shoe tight fit if you want, also lets you dial the whole shoe into your foot shape.
The fit is good for me, quite low volume as you’d expect, but the heel cup is deep and holds well, even with the big scoops around your ankle bones that really free-up foot movement. The fit is enhanced by Garmont’s ADD Anatomically Directed Design, which featured on the last Garmont-made KSB’s. Put simply, ADD introduces a little more ergonomics and asymmetricality into the shoes to try and work with the weirdness of our foot design rather than tame it. My feet are so used to being in different shoes all the time now, it’ll be interesting to see how the little ADD quirks feel.
There’s a bit of cushioning under the foot, but still plenty of trail feedback, they’re stiff-ish but still have enough toe flex for easy walking and not trying to suck the shoe off of your heel with every step.
So, these look very usuable, they look rather nice in general when it comes to it, red with yellow laces? Oh yes.
More thoughts on these as I go, more Garmont coming soon too.